It’s the time of year for easy fishing--no long runs, and easy bait. Our first cold fronts (cool fronts) have come through and knocked our water temps down, prompting tons of bait to mass on, or inside, the edge of the reef. I really don’t know what species I’ll chase any particular day. It all has to do with what bait is the easiest.
A cast net full of pilchards on the beach opens the door for most everything from bottom fish, like mutton snapper, to surface fish, the likes of sails and mackerel. Threadfin herring caught on quill rigs in Hawks Channel, on markers or a particular rock, definitely get me thinking about drifts for sailfish, blackfins, and wahoo. Maybe the ballyhoo are massed on the edge of the reef and charge up your chum slick, begging to get into the live well. Generally, I won’t have to move far from the location of the ballys because all the predators like sails, snapper, and toothy critters, will be close by, looking for one slipping up and limping outside or under the school for a quick snack.
The first couple lowly blue runners that slip up and eat our yellowtail baits are a great option to pin on a couple treble hooks and slip out back behind the boat. A full-grown king mackerel or oversized barracuda will make quick work of him.
The best, and hardest to come by, are speedos, who will visit your chum bag just off the edge of the reef. They can be caught on small hooks and put in the live well for future use. Make sure you don’t touch them or drop them on the deck, as they are very tender baits, but live well on the hook.
A short stretch of number 5 or 6 wire, with a 5/0 short shank J-hook, and an extra strong treble hook pinned in their back and bump trolled, will not last long on the outside edge to the reef, or around a wreck. Wahoo and king mackerel love them, along with sailfish.
Make sure whatever rod and reel you fish it from, has plenty of line, a smooth light drag, and a fairly short-tipped rod--we don’t want to pull that treble out if they miss the J-hook.
Early in the year with water temps down, don’t be surprised to see a random mahi on top of the reef looking for an easy meal. They will gladly eat any live bait, or a bucktail jig slapping down, where they can see it.
Easy bait days normally equate to great fishing, so take advantage while you can and get out there.
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